Texas A&M AgriLife faculty and staff members recently received high-level campus awards from The Association of Former Students, AFS, at Texas A&M University.

The AFS Distinguished Achievement Awards are given to faculty and staff who exhibit the highest standards for excellence at Texas A&M. They are among the most prestigious awards presented to faculty at the university. Recipients are chosen by a campus-wide committee composed of faculty, students, former students and staff.

Awards honor Texas A&M faculty and staff members in teaching, research, student relations, graduate mentoring, educational outreach, professional development, administration and staff support.

2022 Distinguished Achievement Award for Teaching   

A woman, Kerri Gehring, standing in front of a chart in a speaking pose
Kerri Gehring, Ph.D., earns teaching award from The Association of Former Students. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo)

Gehring was cited for student-centered teaching that incorporates active-learning strategies aligned with the learning outcomes and assessments. She uses case studies and group work to provide students opportunities to develop disciplinary-specific knowledge and skills. She also helps students learn the more universal skills of critical thinking, communication and teamwork.

Her nomination states that Gehring is on the “cutting edge of the food industry,” and her classes continue to evolve to meet the increasing standards of that industry. It stated the material she presents to her students is “relevant and reflective of the knowledge, values and skills that students require for success after graduation.”

Gehring’s nomination also cited her mentoring activities and noted they extended beyond her students and to fellow faculty members and professional colleagues, generously giving of herself to make those around her better. She was recognized as an exceptional teacher and mentor whose work has played a direct role in training global food industry leaders.

A head shot of a woman, Ariun Ishdorj, on a blue background
Ariun Ishdorj, Ph.D., earns teaching award from The Association of Former Students. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo)

Ishdorj’s reputation is as a caring, encouraging and pastoral educator — both in and beyond the classroom. Students consistently describe her teaching, mentoring and dedication as inspiring and motivational.

Her nomination states that her “commitment to the learning process, like her solicitation of student feedback, is intentional and ongoing.”

Ishdorj has developed an award-winning teaching program in addition to her research expertise in applying statistical quantitative methods to address health and nutrition economics issues.

She uses technology to help enhance the undergraduate’s learning by supplementing the in-class lectures with online assignments and quizzes, lecture-related online self-assessments problems, and critical thinking case studies and discussion groups to help improve students’ engagement.

Since 2010, Ishdorj has chaired or co-chaired 16 graduate student research committees, been a member of 24 other graduate student committees, and directed five honors undergraduate research projects. Many of her students are international and she mentors them to understand and succeed in American academia and industry cultures.

2022 Distinguished Achievement Award for Research

A woman, Libo Shan, standing in the lab
Libo Shan, Ph.D., to receive research award from The Association of Former Students. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo)

In her award nomination, Shan is described as “leading an internationally regarded research program and dedicated to teaching and educating the next generation of scientists.”

The nomination states that Shan “demonstrates leadership by exemplifying excellence in research, teaching and service through actions from her programs, fostering a vibrant, collaborative and competitive cutting-edge research environment….”

Shan is a leader in the field of plant-pathogen interaction. Her research interests include elucidating the signaling mechanisms underlying plant-pathogen interactions to improve crop stress tolerance and yield. Her research has led to a better understanding of plant immunity, and she has implemented contemporary biotechnologies to improve the resilience of economically important crops.

In teaching, Shan is regarded as an effective and accomplished educator and mentor for diverse groups of students.

A man, Luis Tedeschi, holding feeding material in a barn
Luis Tedeschi, Ph.D., earns research award from The Association of Former Students (Texas A&M AgriLife photo)

Tedeschi’s research has positively influenced the feedlot industry in the U.S. His forward-thinking approach to the partitioning of energy in growing cattle led Tedeschi to develop decision-support tools to determine the energy efficiency of beef and dairy cattle.

He and collaborators created the fundamentals and calculation logic behind the Cattle Value Discovery System, CVDS, a computer model based on the National Research Council’s 2000 edition of Nutrient Requirements of Beef Cattle. The CVDS is used in commercial feedlots to minimize costs and optimize profits while reducing nutrients required and excess fat in the meat. They also produced innovative thinking and mechanistic formulation of body fat deposition to determine necessary days on feed to achieve the maximum profit of group-fed animals.

While at Texas A&M, Tedeschi’s research group collected and published information on feedlot management, growth bioenergetics and carcass composition of different cattle breeds worldwide. Their work has enabled many feedlot-related enterprises in the U.S, especially in Texas, to expand their enterprises.

Tedeschi was invited to serve on the prominent National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine committee to re-engineer the Beef Cattle Nutrients Requirement publication and model, released in 2016, and to develop the mathematical model for beef cattle requirements.

A man, Bhimu Patil, standing behind an assorted citrus display
Bhimu Patil, Ph.D., research award winner recognized by The Association of Former Students. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo)

Patil’s work is internationally recognized and considered a model because it bridges the gap between horticultural, nutritional and medical science. He belongs to an exclusive group of leaders in the “foods for health” field and is a leading global researcher in the top 2% of active researchers in foods for health, horticultural science and the isolation and characterization of bioactive molecules.

“Dr. Patil’s systems-wide farm-to-table aproaches include examining pre- and post-harvest effects on bioactive compounds, isolatng and characterizing these compounds from different fruits and vegetables and understanding their roles in human health,” said Amit Dhingra, Ph.D., head of Texas A&M’s Department of Horticultural Sciences. “Moreover, he has a strong working relationship with produce industry stakeholders.”

Patil has a distinguished record of achievements in education, including leading the development of three unique courses linking agriculture, human health and sustainability. Texas A&M has been a leader in this area, due, in part, to his seminal contributions in these first-of-their-kind multidisciplinary courses. 

In other areas of his work, he and his team have isolated novel therapeutic agents to reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease. He published a seminal study demonstrating that citrus limonoids, at micromolar concentrations, are lethal to neuroblastoma cells but not harmful to normal cells.

2022 Distinguished Achievement Award for Extension, Outreach, Continuing Education and Professional Development:

  • David Kerns, Ph.D., professor, AgriLife Extension specialist, Intergrated Pest Management coordinator and associate department head, Department of Entomology.
the head shot of a man, David Kerns
David Kerns, Ph.D., honored for outreach and professional development by The Association of Former Students. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo)

Kerns oversees the Texas Integrated Pest Management Program, working with IPM agents, AgriLife Extension specialists and county agents to deliver vital pest management information via newsletters, podcasts, text messages and “coffee shop” talks.

His role as state IPM coordinator is to organize and direct AgriLife Extension personnel to address stakeholder directives.

He specializes in applied research for row crop pest management and integrated pest management for educational outreach and professional development. His statewide program focuses on developing economically sound and sustainable solutions to managing cotton, corn, grain sorghum and soybean pests.

Kern’s research includes monitoring insecticide resistance, developing treatment action thresholds, and developing systematic approaches to pest management. His primary research and educational outreach has been in cotton and the development of economically sound and sustainable solutions for managing cotton pests. He also works with producers, consultants and agriculture officials to develop strategies to increase cotton production.

2022 Distinguished Achievement Award for Individual Student Engagement

  • Chris Skaggs, Ph.D., professor, associate dean for student development in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and associate vice chancellor for producer relations for Texas A&M AgriLife.
An environmental portrait of a man, Chris Skaggs, in a maroon suit jacket and tie.
Chris Skaggs, Ph.D., receives award for student engagement from The Association of Former Students. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo)

For more than 30 years, Skaggs has coordinated introductory animal science laboratories, taught an introductory seminar for the Department of Animal Science, provided freshman orientation and presented first-year experience courses.

He serves as faculty advisor to the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Student Council, which conducts two Agriculture and Life Sciences Career Fairs annually. 

Skaggs works with youth at livestock-oriented events across Texas. He is involved in student recruitment and coordinates the college scholarship program and student professional development activities. He is also a liaison with the major livestock shows of Texas, as well as superintendent for numerous contests and events at the shows. He is also a member of the scholarship committee for the State Fair of Texas.

Skaggs also served as coach and faculty coordinator of the Texas A&M Livestock Judging Team, which won five national championships.

As vice chancellor for producer relations, Skaggs collaborates with agricultural industry leaders on priorities related to Texas A&M educational, research and extension initiatives.

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